Rainbow Connection

Provincetown, MA

Left: Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. Right: Actress Summer Bishil with filmmaker Alan Ball. (Photos: Dawn Chan)

One glance at the guide to the dozen or so venues for Provincetown’s Tenth Annual International Film Festival and I felt lost at sea. Or perhaps I was simply feeling the effects of the ferry, where I had sat alongside an entertaining range of passengers: several middle-aged couples of various stripes of the rainbow, optimistically headed back to command central; a few young “rich rapist types,” (as a friend termed them); and, of course, the film-folk like IndieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez and managing editor Brian Brooks along with IFC’s Ryan Warner. We sorted through the festival’s offerings—from the North American premiere of Madonna’s Filth and Wisdom to rock-documentary Patti Smith: Dream of Life. Word was that Man on Wire, about the man who walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers in 1974, was not to be missed. We put a star next to it.

Each day kicked off with a breakfast panel at yet another cozy seaside eatery—apparently the basic building block of life in Provincetown. Thursday morning’s panel, “Documentary Filmmaking,” featured filmmakers Lucia Small, Randy Barbato, and John Walter. Moderating was film critic Gerald Perry, who opened with the big questions: Why were audience-numbers shrinking after the “golden age of documentary—the year of Michael Moore?” No good solutions. Perry moved on to other, more perplexing, conundrums: Was documentary, as Walter put it, “a redemption of physical reality” or a “social construct”? “We think in forms—and story forms,” Walter said. “When we see something in reality that matches up, we mash the two together.”

That turned out to be the perfect thought to chew on during the screening of American Teen, which won its creator, Nanette Burstein, Sundance’s directing award for a documentary. The movie was a perfect social map of every high school archetype since The Breakfast Club. But was it scripted? Such questions were eclipsed by the distracting charm of one of the film’s leads, Hannah Bailey, a budding indie-filmmaker herself.

Left: Connie White, Provincetown Film Festival artistic director, with filmmaker John Waters, artist Marlene McCarty, and Ted Hope. Right: Actress Jane Lynch. (Photo: Dawn Chan)

If Thursday’s panel focused on larger issues, Friday’s breakfast was devoted to specifics—namely, Towelhead, the first feature directed by Six Feet Under’s Alan Ball. Ball and producer Ted Hope discussed the myriad challenges of making the film. (Given the movie’s much-discussed child molestation scene, it was hard to convince actor Aaron Eckhart that his role wasn’t quite that of a pedophile.)

At a reception that evening held in the Schoolhouse Gallery, director John Waters caught up with artist Marlene McCarty, while dynamo festival artistic director Connie White greased all the logistical and social cogs. (A party a night is no small feat.) Topping off the weekend was an awards ceremony in Provincetown’s high-school auditorium, which spilled over into a makeshift simulcast room in a darkened cafeteria downstairs. I arrived after actress Jane Lynch received the Faith Hubley Memorial Award, but in time to catch Quentin Tarantino, honored with the “Filmmaker on the Edge” prize, being interviewed by Waters, who asked if all the “close-ups of feet” in Tarantino movies were evidence of a foot fetish. “No, that’s just good filmmaking,” Tarantino replied.

Raw oysters helped keep the spirits high at the ensuing gala, where Paper’s Dennis Dermody talked of Provincetown’s good old days, “when John worked at the bookstore and I worked at the video store—and when I could still afford it here.” Towelhead’s next-generation-star Summer Bishil wandered the crowd with her mother. Like all the other partygoers, she had nothing to do but move in circles around the buffet. Gael García Bernal showed up wearing glasses, perhaps feeling more casual now that the designated paparazzi hour was over. As fans surrounded Tarantino, I couldn’t help but recall his response to another question earlier that day. When asked, “What’s the best gift a fan has ever given you?” the filmmaker responded: “Pussy. It’s a gift that doesn’t stop giving: There’s pussy, and there’s the memory of pussy.” And, unfortunately, there’s the memory of Tarantino remembering said “pussy.” Thankfully, any lasting taint in the air was erased by the sight of a local icon on Commercial Street: Ellie, a seventy-six-year-old baritone with long blonde tresses and calf-flattering gold sandals. Stationed in the public square, toting a sandwich board that read LIVING MY DREAM, she serenaded the crowd with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” And just like that, optimism was restored; all was right in Provincetown.